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Bruins Face Habs in Teams’ Final Matchup Before Winter Classic

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

MONTREAL — The Bruins face the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday night in the teams’ final meeting before the much anticipated 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1.

Boston is looking to change its fortune against the Habs, while also getting back in the win column following Monday’s 3-2 loss to Nashville.

“I want to see a good effort for 60 minutes,” Patrice Bergeron said after pregame skate at the Bell Centre on Wednesday morning. “Obviously, I think when guys are going hard and playing our system, I think every time we do that — the Vancouver game was a perfect example — I think when you play within your strengths and you worry about what you can bring as a team, good things happen.”

The Bruins have kept referring to the 4-0 shutout of Vancouver on Saturday as a recent benchmark game to draw on. The fatigue factor no doubt set in on Monday against the Predators in Boston’s quick pitstop back at TD Garden, and that led to an undisciplined night spent far too often on the penalty kill.

The PK was also the story the last time the Bruins faced the Canadiens, back on Nov. 7 at the Bell Centre. Boston led 2-1 in the third period, before Lars Eller tied the game at 2-2. With the game all but headed for overtime, a late power-play goal from the Habs gave them the slight cushion they needed before potting an empty-netter for the 4-2 win.

“I think it was a good effort overall,” Bergeron said of their last time out against the Habs. “The PK there kind of let us down a bit with that goal, so we’ve got to a better job. Lately, I think, we’e been a lot better  on the penalty kill, so we need more of that, and just to play a good, solid hockey game.”

Aside from Monday’s loss — allowing two power play goals on seven Nashville opportunities — the penalty kill had actually been on the upswing.

“We’ve been playing some good hockey,” said Bergeron. “I think we have another gear we can go in, and obviously, we’re going to need that tonight.”

The Black & Gold also dropped a 4-2 loss to Montreal at TD Garden on Oct. 10 in just their second game of the season and the teams’ first matchup, before the new-look Bruins were able to get into any sort of groove.

“They’re a good team, they’ve been playing some good hockey,” said Bergeron. The standings show it, their record [shows it] — and I think they’re a team that’s tough to beat if you don’t bring your best effort, so we’re definitely going to need that, and build from the things we’ve done well, and correct the things that we haven’t done well lately.”

The Bruins will need more shots on net. That’s an emphasis for every game, but even more so on Wednesday night, given their season-low shot total (17) on Monday in their loss to the Predators.

They’ll likely be facing Mike Condon between the pipes — and not Carey Price, who remains sidelined by a lower-body injury.

Montreal is coming off two straight 3-2 losses to Washington and Carolina, but this is a team that has proven all season why its atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

Despite the Bruins being 1-9-2 against the Habs in their past 12 contest against each other, the rivalry hasn’t subsided — although it may currently appear one-sided.

“It’s always special to play Montreal,” said Bergeron. “I think over the decade of hockey [I’ve played against them], I think it’s always been something that fans like, fans enjoy, players like to go out there and play each other — it’s always an intense game.”

“The atmosphere’s always amazing in both buildings, either at the Garden or here at the Bell Centre. So it’s a lot of fun to be part of, and we need a good night, a good effort.”

“Everybody’s wondering what happened to the rivalry but at the same time, the game’s changed a lot where there’s a lot more speed in the game now, the rules changed, a lot of things changed where we’re trying to get fighting more out of the game,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “So I think the games against them seem just as exciting, there just aren’t those little scraps, and pushing and shoving that it used to have in the past as much — so who knows, because I’m talking about it now, it could happen tonight.”

Hayes Likely Slotting Back In

According to line rushes during pregame skate, it appears that Jimmy Hayes will be slotting back into the lineup after two games as a healthy scratch.

He’s looking forward to getting the chance to make an impact, especially after just notching one point in his last 12 games played. He knows he can be a difference maker with his 6-foot-6 frame.

“I’ve got to be a big presence out there tonight, play hard and be ready to go for a full 60,” said Hayes.

The forward took what he could from those two games watching in the press box.

“It’s an easy game from up there, but I’ve just got to continue to work hard and get back to the game I know I can play,” said Hayes. “You don’t want to sit in the stands. So you’ve got to perform, and that’s what you’re expected you to do.”

“It’s a situation you don’t want to be in, but it happens, so I’ve just got to bounce back and play well,” said Hayes.

Hayes skated on a line with Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano during pregame skate.

“They’re both really high-end speed with lots of skill,” said Hayes. “I’m a big guy on the line, so I’m going to have to get some grind time and try to find Frank in the slot and let him use that shot he’s got.”

“I think we can bring some speed to that line, especially Jimmy adding some size to that line, so get behind their D and be physical,” said Vatrano, who notched his first NHL goal in his NHL debut at the Bell Centre in November. “I think that’s what we’ve got to do tonight — is play hard, play a hard two-way game and be good in our D zone and also be good offensively.”

Talbot Joins Team With Kemppainen Placed on IR

Joonas Kemppainen was placed on Injured Reserve Tuesday with an upper body injury and Max Talbot was recalled from the Providence Bruins.

Talbot did not take part in line rushes during Wednesday’s morning skate, but there’s still a possibility he could be in the lineup against Montreal on the Bruins’ fourth line along with Zac Rinaldo and Landon Ferraro. Tyler Randell stayed on the ice for extra work after the team’s skate along with defenseman Colin Miller. The extra time on the ice suggests both players could be scratches come game time.

Talbot last suited up for Boston on Nov. 21 and Nov. 23. He’s currently on his third recall of the season.

“I think I’ll keep it the same speech every time I get back up,” Talbot smiled to reporters following pregame skate. “Once again, it’s the same thing — I’m here now, bring what I can do and hopefully stay around this time around. But I’ve got to play my game, you know, I’ve got to be a leader out there and play the best I can be, for sure, to make a difference.”

The versatile forward has four goals and six assists in 10 contests with the P-Bruins this season. Three of his four goals have come on the power play.

“It’s been good down there,” said Talbot. “Our team has been playing definitely better, winning some games, and for me, I think I’m three or four years older than the second guy down there, so it’s fun you know, you go out there and you play a little bit different situations and have a chance to contribute offensively and it gives you confidence when you win games down there. It’s fun.”

Projected Lineup vs. Montreal 12/9

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronBrett Connolly

Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciLoui Eriksson

Frank VatranoRyan SpoonerJimmy Hayes

Zac RinaldoMax TalbotLandon Ferraro

Zdeno CharaZach Trotman

Torey KrugAdam McQuaid

Joe MorrowKevan Miller

Starting Goalie: Tuukka Rask // Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

Projected Scratches: Tyler Randell, Colin Miller

Dennis Seidenberg did not take part in morning rushes, and also did not stay on for extra work after morning skate. The best indication for defense pairs will come during warmups, which begin around 7:00 p.m. ET.

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